By: J.A., Writer for Hope Instilled
This is a topic that is very important to me, and I think I’m well-qualified to talk about it.
As I mentioned in the personal story I shared on our Stories of Hope blog, the struggle to love and accept myself just the way I am is one of the hardest challenges I’ve ever had to face in my life. At some point in my life, loving myself seemed nearly impossible. Not only have I been faced with the struggle to love myself through chronic illness, but also dealing with self-esteem issues for most of my life due to being highly sensitive, an INFJ (less than 1% of the population), and being surrounded by the wrong people for having those traits. But, I won’t go into too much detail on that, as you can read a bit about my battle of self-love by following the link above.
How to start loving yourself by first discovering who you are and understanding what makes you special. I think there are two components to loving yourself: loving what you can’t change, and loving the person you decide to be (not the person society decided you are or shaped you to be). Then, there are two components of loving what you can’t change: loving your physical body and your personality. I have struggled with all of these things at some point in my life. I know how incredibly difficult it can be.
This blog focuses on loving what you can't change, and my follow-up blog will talk about loving the person you decide to be letting go of society's stigmas.
Some physical traits you can’t change. For example, you can’t change your height, you typically can’t change your eye color, or the fact that you have a larger body build, or a smaller body build. Of course, you can get contacts. You can lose weight, but at some point, it isn’t healthy to be a certain weight based on your body type. You have to learn to accept yourself just the way you are.
I used to think I weighed too much in high school. But, it was only because all my friends had small body frames and I had a medium frame. Years later, I look back on the pictures and I can’t believe how incredibly skinny I was. It was an unfair comparison to think I wasn’t the proper weight, just because I had a medium body frame. My weight was perfect for my body type at that time.
I’ve learned from Ayurveda medicine that there are usually three body frames - small frame where you don’t put on weight easily, medium build, and more solid, muscular body frames. So even if you are the same height as someone else, it does not mean you have the same healthy weight range (it depends on your body frame). All body types are beautiful and acceptable. So don’t compare yourself to others, and concern yourself with being crazy muscular or crazy skinny. Just aim for being healthy.
I have struggled with loving my body and multiple points in my life. Of course, there are still things I don’t like about it, but nothing that bothers me every time I look in the mirror. I know with chronic illness your body might have changed in ways you don’t like, and that’s understandable.
I have one strategy for improving upon loving your physical body, and I can’t say this will completely change your outlook, but hopefully, it helps. To improve a physical struggle, look in the mirror and pick out a few things you love about yourself. This can be anything: your nose, eyes, ears, curves, butt, hair, feet, hands, muscular arms, skin complexion, long neck, the symmetry of your face, etc. Then, focus on those things whenever you look in the mirror. It doesn’t matter what other people think, it matters what you think is beautiful about you. Remind yourself that no one has those exact beautiful traits. We all have multiple traits that are naturally beautiful.
You can also accentuate those things to improve your confidence more by wearing certain clothes, makeup, jewelry, or whatever works to make them more prominent. Many guys think girls wear makeup for them, but we actually wear it because it makes us feel more confident in ourselves. And there is nothing wrong with that!
I don’t recommend focusing on the negative things, but if you really can’t stand your hair color or something else that find a way to hide it a bit or change it. I mean if it is a simple thing you can improve upon with makeup, hairstyle, different clothes, etc. From a health perspective, I don’t recommend plastic surgery and anything else that means adding toxins to the body. I would still recommend focusing on your positive traits instead.
I started doing this mirror concept a long time ago, and it really helped me. It helped me to stop focusing on the things I didn’t like by always pointing out what I did like while looking in the mirror. Also, reminding myself that those traits I love the most are unique to me, and traits others might love to have. Over time the traits I didn’t like became less noticeable to me.
Especially true for women, we are way more critical of our own bodies than anyone else. Just remember, it is normal to have some insecurity about your body, you just have to focus on the beautiful parts instead.
This is a major focus of the personal blog I mentioned, on my battle of self-love. We all have a God-given personality (that’s what I like to call it – you can call it whatever you want). I learned a lot about mine as I mentioned in the previous blogs, by the Briggs personality test (note: it isn’t always 100% accurate, so you might have to take it twice). I know these personality traits I was born with and I can’t really change them. For example, the fact that I’m an introvert. I can’t just decide to be an extrovert no matter how much I want to. I have to accept that I get drained from being in large crowds and by surrounding myself with too many people, and I need lots of time alone. I’m a highly sensitive person and I can’t really change that. I can only manage it (as I focused on in my personal blog story). So in order to love the traits that you were inherently born with, I think the best route again is to focus on the positive aspects. But, first…
First, you might have to separate the traits you were born with from the traits society or your experiences have left you with. Personality tests can help with that. You can find a test online to see if you are more left-brained or right-brained, and also figure out if you are more of an introvert, extrovert, or right in the middle. You can also take tests given by life coaches, wellness coaches, or career coaches.
Everyone possesses special traits unique to them, and I even believe they are tied to a purpose here on earth. Which I won’t go into, because I dive into that in my blog: Finding Purpose in Life When Chronically Sick. These personality tests should help you to distinguish who you are from what society or experience has influenced you to be.
But, what if society or the people surrounding you have left a negative perspective on how you view certain traits?
For me, that has been an epic, huge, monumental problem. As society doesn’t really accept and is confused by highly sensitive people and INFJ personalities. Not only that, being an INFJ and sensitive has been confusing even for me living in this body. There are times where I have thought I think I’m a bit defective.
We do all have weaknesses with our personality traits, that is a fact. In the Briggs personality profile, it states weaknesses for each personality type. But, society and the people around you shouldn’t make you feel bad about those things. I wouldn’t even necessarily call them negative traits. For mine, I don’t think it is a bad thing not liking confrontation, as long as I try to confront someone when necessary vs holding a grudge. I don’t think that it is a bad thing that it says I’m sometimes difficult to get to know, as long as I don’t shut myself off completely from the world – it’s okay. I actually don’t love these traits, but I accept that they are traits I possess.
We can always improve on our traits, even though we can’t necessarily change them. No matter what anyone has said about you with regards to your inherent personality, it is beautiful and unique. You were born with it for a reason. You can dislike parts of it, but you should love certain aspects of it too. Finding and understanding your strengths and the things you enjoy, and applying them to your life will help you love yourself even more. Also, it is super important to take care of your needs with regards to what your personality is, and surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you.
You can also view my blog on self-love that focuses on sacrificing well-being and happiness.